I'm a little late to learn about this, but in my defense, it's a very inconspicuous change: the 2014 NBA game ball now features the league's @NBA social handle alongside the new Commissioner's signature. It's a tiny addition to a treasured piece of sporting equipment that has a huge symbolic significance for Twitter and the league itself.
The NBA basketball doesn't change for just anyone
Look, the NBA basketball doesn't change for just anyone. Former Commissioner David Stern tried to move to a fancy composite material back in 2006, but the alteration was rejected so quickly that the old design returned by January of the following year, not even halfway through the season. So when something, anything, gets added or taken away, it's significant. Adam Silver, Stern's successor, is the name that now adorns the ball, but otherwise it's been left untouched for most of my lifetime. And now there's a Twitter handle on it.
The @NBA sign is intended to include the league's presence across all the various social networks — including Facebook and Weibo — but the first result in a Google search, and the first thing anyone will think of when they see it, will be Twitter. The balls aren't the only thing changing, either, as the majority of the league's teams now display their Twitter handles on the side of the court. Yes, the same courts that cost millions of dollars per year to place a single advertiser's name upon them are doing (admittedly indirect) marketing on Twitter's behalf.
@mattsheffield I used both. Used my iPad for tweeting.— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) November 6, 2014
Twitter is now fundamental to the news and entertainment industries. Intrinsic. You can't have a controversy or a sensation without it being on Twitter. The world's most famous selfie is famous for the number of retweets it got, while the CNN presenters that got into hot water for using iPads on air were doing so in order to keep their personal tweets going. I have my Twitter handle on my business cards and by my byline at the top of this article — it's a personal brand extension and an added gateway for reader interaction. Even the BBC, famed for its allergy to advertising, lists presenters' Twitter profiles alongside their names.
Twitter faces numerous challenges in proving itself as a profitable business, including a slowdown in the growth of registered users and an unfriendly experience for complete neophytes. And yet, that's not stopping it from penetrating every aspect of modern communications and turning the @ symbol into the social equivalent of .com for websites.
I once saw YouTube going through the same thing; shortly after it was taken over by Google, everyone asked how this popular but unprofitable venture was going to monetize its content. It took some time, but YouTube is now thriving commercially, and with enough patience, Twitter will do the same. That's what I see when I look upon the new NBA basketball. It's not a crystal ball, but the dark lettering on its tan skin conveys omnipresence on a scale we've not yet seen from any other social service.